Comparing Singularities: Social and Technological Disruptions

Comparing Singularities

The IHS is pleased to announce our next online discussion series, “Comparing Singularities!” These discussions will take place once a month and students will receive $125 per session plus a stipend to purchase readings. Please note that this does mean that participants are expected to procure their own readings in whatever manner works best for them. Students are welcome to register for the entire series or simply whatever sessions interest them the most. The schedule of discussions and list of readings is below.

Throughout the course of the series, students will explore the concept and history of technological singularities and their impacts. Though ‘singularity’ means many things across many fields, in the history and development of technology, it tends to refer to points in time where technology develops so quickly and spontaneously that no one before or during the singularity can predict what effects that development will have on society. This seminar will compare different historical examples of singularities, both technological and political, so that students may be better able to understand the singularity we are rapidly approaching in the field of Artificial Intelligence.

Sessions will be held from 1:00-3:00pm (ET), November 11, 2020–June 9, 2021

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The schedule of readings and sessions is:

1. Liberalism and Statism in the Prehistorical Era (Nov. 11, 2020)
James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, Yale University Press, 2017.

2. Carroll Quigley’s Model of Civilizations (Dec. 9, 2020)
Carroll Quigley, The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis, Second Edition, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1979.

3. The Republic of Letters (Jan. 13, 2021)
Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain, 1700-1850, Yale University Press, 2012.

4. Godwin and the Necromancers (Feb. 10, 2021)
William Godwin, Lives of the Necromancers, The Cato Institute, 2017.

5. Walt Whitman’s Democratic Singularity (March 10, 2021)
Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas, The Cato Institute, 2018.

6. Telegraphy and the Internet in Modern China (April 14, 2021)
Yongming Zhou, Historicizing Online Politics: Telegraphy, the Internet, and Political Participation in China, Stanford University Press, 2005.

7. The “Age of Spiritual Machines” (May 12, 2021)
Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, Penguin Books, 2000.

8. The “Age of EM” (June 9, 2021)
Robin Hanson, The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth, Oxford University Press, 2018.


Learn more about how IHS Discussion Colloquia are designed for advancing graduate students and faculty members seeking in-depth discussions about specialized topics in the classical liberal tradition.